Professor Don Boudreaux

In Defense of Al Sharpton

Don Boudreaux writes to Al Sharpton:

Rev. Al Sharpton
National Action Network

Dear Rev. Sharpton:

Your organization, the National Action Network, e-mailed me to boast about your complaint to Walgreen’s CEO regarding his company’s alleged ‘underserving’ of minorities.

I like your tactic! But it prompts me to ask: Why are you ‘underserving’ minorities in need of low-priced pharmaceutical products?

What have you done to attract private capital to finance retail outlets? How have you helped to organize supply chains that get pharmaceuticals from factories to consumers at costs that make the on-going retail distribution of these products profitable at prices that also are affordable to low-income consumers? Where’s the evidence of your entrepreneurial creativity – and the evidence of you risking your own money and of you spending untold hours of your own time – to help bring pharmaceuticals to low-income neighborhoods? Why do you not devote more of your ample energies to struggle with details of the likes of inventory management, optimal liability-insurance coverage, and OSHA work-place-safety regulations so that you can create a retail pharmaceutical chain that earns sufficient profit to enable it to stay afloat while it simultaneously achieves all of what you somehow divine such a retail chain ‘should’ achieve?

Walgreen’s investors and employees actually and already contribute infinitely more energy and resources than you do to the process of making pharmaceutical products readily available to the masses. So surely if it’s appropriate – as you clearly believe it to be – to fling accusations at anyone who arguably exerts insufficient effort to improve the retail distribution of pharmaceutical products, you deserve far more criticism than does Walgreen’s and its CEO.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

Here’s my comment (you have to go down to about the 100th comment):

John Donnelly    December 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Ok, I’ll be your huckleberry. I know that most of the commenters are your fanboys (and girls) so I will take the Sharpton side.

Professor Boudreaux is like a father in his disciplining of the complainer with the old argument, “if you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem” or “what? are your legs broken”. His argument is likened to telling an art critic to “grab a brush”!

Unfortunately Professor Boudreaux is not helpful in this case simply because the good Reverend is not in the business of distributing pharmaceuticals and he needn’t be. Nor does Rev Sharpton need to be an economist to express his opinion about Walgreens and their distribution and pricing policies from his social utility point of view.

Chucklehead has it right, Sharpton is just doing his job, complaining on behalf of those he deems to need his help and who don’t enjoy his level of influence. Rev. Sharpton’s attempt to sway a large corporation to do (hopefully mutually beneficial) business to help his community is a very rational thing to do given his unique assets and abilities.

I can go on about the good Reverend’s assets and how he leverages them but that is another debate.

This should generate some interesting comments!